Orange juice makers consider using alternative fruit as prices skyrocket

A worker loads oranges onto a truck in Itupeva, Sao Paulo state, Brazil, on Aug. 3, 2021. (Patricia Monteiro/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A global shortage of oranges that sent prices soaring has prompted some orange juice manufacturers to consider turning to alternative fruits to make the breakfast staple.

Global prices for oranges hit $3.68 per pound in April, up about 33% from the $2.76 figure recorded one year ago, according to International Monetary Fund data. That also marks a stunning 210% increase from January 2021, shortly before the inflation crisis began.

"There are three main factors driving the soaring price of orange juice, and it's drought, disease and demand," Ted Jenkin, oXYGen Financial CEO and co-founder, told FOX Business.



Navel oranges are displayed for sale in the fresh produce area of a Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store in Redondo Beach, California, on Feb. 23. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

The spike stems from declining output in Florida, which is the primary U.S. producer, and disease and extreme weather events in Brazil, which accounts for about 70% of global production

Orange trees in Brazil have been suffering from a disease known as citrus greening. Once infected, citrus trees produce fruits that are partially green, small, misshapen and bitter. There is no cure, and trees typically die within a few years of infection.

The disease, along with severe heat waves and drought that occurred during the pivotal phases of flowering and early fruit formation, have put Brazil on track to register one of its worst orange harvests in more than three decades, according to a new report published by Fundecitrus and CitrusBR.


In fact, the citrus growers organization forecast that the South American nation is set to produce 232.4 million boxes of oranges in the 2024 to 2025 season — a marked 25% decline when compared with the previous cycle. 

"Should this production forecast hold true, this will be the second-smallest crop since 1988-1989," the report said.

On top of that, Florida has been hit by a series of hurricanes as well as the greening disease, which is spread by a tiny insect called the Asian citrus psyllid.

"This is a crisis," Kees Cools, president of the International Fruit and Vegetable Juice Association (IFU), told the Financial Times. "We’ve never seen anything like it, even during the big freezes and big hurricanes."


As a result, orange juice prices are also skyrocketing. A 12-ounce can of frozen orange juice concentrate soared to $4.25 in April, up 41% from just one year ago.

In the past, orange juice makers have avoided long-term shortages by freezing juice stock, which can be preserved and used for up to two years, according to the Financial Times. However, even that frozen stock is dissipating because of a three-year shortage build-up. 

Cools said that manufacturers may have to consider using a different fruit, like mandarins, because their trees are more resistant to the greening disease. However, that could be a lengthy process.

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